The Federal Trade Commission has voted to fine Facebook $5 billion as the result of its long-running investigation into the social network’s privacy violations, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The settlement, which has not yet been finalized, according to the report, comes after a lengthy investigation into the company’s privacy practices that kicked off last March following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Five billion will set a record for the largest such fine ever imposed on a tech company. (Google previously held the record for a $22.5 million fine it received in 2012.) But a multibillion-dollar fine alone will have little impact on the company, which took in more than $15 billion in revenue last quarter alone.
Facebook has long been expecting the massive fine, disclosing in its last earnings call that it anticipated a fine of $3 to $5 billion as a result of the investigation. That kind of disclosure might rock another company’s stock, but not Facebook, which saw its stock rise immediately after the news last April. (The company’s stock shot up again immediately following news of the settlement.)
But the FTC’s decision could still have serious ramifications for the social network, depending on what other terms the FTC imposes as part of the settlement. The Wall Street Journal reported that “a settlement is expected to include other government restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy,” but said specifics weren’t yet clear.
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Previous reports have suggested that some FTC members wanted to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook’s actions, a rare rebuke for a CEO known to be sensitive about his public image. Other, earlier leaks out of the investigation suggested the commission could require Facebook to name a “federally approved privacy official,” or gain FTC approval ahead of new product launches.
While it’s not yet clear which, if any, of those proposals will be part of the final agreement, such rules could have a much deeper impact on the company. Facebook, which once worked under the mantra “move fast and break things,” could not only face the prospect of delaying plans to gain FTC approval, but also might finally have to deal with that government oversight Zuckerberg has claimed to welcome. We’ll soon find out.